Muggles Give Harry Potter a $125.1 Million Opening Weekend

As expected the first half of the final chapter in the Harry Potter franchise, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, owned the North American and global box office without breaking a sweat. Lionsgate chose to release the Russell Crowe drama The Next Three Days as counter-programming to the boy wizard’s final adventure, but really shouldn’t have bothered given that film’s dire debut sales. The long-awaited return of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint in their signature roles helped the top five surge a superb 93% from last weekend and the top ten 72%. However, in comparison to last year at this time which saw the $142 million launch of The Twilight Saga: New Moon, the top ten was down 25%.

Landing in 4,125 theaters including 238 IMAX screens in the United States and Canada alone, part one of The Deathly Hallows grossed a superb $125.1 million in its first three days. Our box office Prophet had predicted $124.3 million and is only $800k off the mark. Friday set a franchise record with $61.4 million in sales, of which $24 million came from the 3,700 theaters that opened the movie at 12:01am Friday morning. Before Hallows, 2009’s entry The Half-Blood Prince held the franchise opening day record with $58.1 million. 2005’s Goblet of Fire held the record for biggest three-day opening with $102.5 million.

While $125 million in three days is a mind-blower no matter how you cut it, one has to wonder how much higher the tally may have been had Warner Bros. gone ahead with its plans to convert the film in 3D. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, due out in July 2011, will be presented in 3D and should see its opening tally soar even higher.

With most of the series’ fans rushing out to see the film on day one, drops in business over successive days were to be expected. Saturday saw a 38% drop to $38.2 million and Warner Bros. is estimating $25.7 million for Sunday – a 32.6% slide from Saturday. With a majority of the reviews on the positive side (79% from Rotten Tomatoes) and viewers liking what they are seeing in the first half of the swan song of Harry, Ron and Hermione, business should continue strong through the upcoming holidays. With Thanksgiving next Thursday and kids out of school and adults off from work, Potter and pals could see their grosses smash through the $200 million mark by next weekend. Whether it passes the $317 million domestic milestone set by 2001’s Sorcerer’s Stone is no guarantee but the march toward that total will benefit from higher ticket prices today versus a decade ago.

Overseas, Deathly Hallows opened in 53 markets and grossed an estimated $49 million on its first day out (final global weekend totals should be reported later on today). The United Kingdom led the global charge with a $9.4 million Friday haul from 579 screens, the biggest single day gross of all time for a theatrical release.

The previous top attraction at the box office, Paramount and Dreamworks’ 3D animated comedy Megamind, abdicated the theater throne to Harry but managed to hold its own against the Deathly Hallows onslaught. Off a moderate 44% from last weekend, the Will Ferrell-voiced hit added an estimated $16.1 million to its total which now stands at $109.4 million. The film should reach the $150 million mark by the end of the month.

In third place was Fox’s well-received Denzel Washington thriller Unstoppable. It eased by approximately 42% to collect $13.2 million in week two to bring its ten-day total to an estimated $42 million. Word-of-mouth from viewers has been favorable so the film should sustain itself fairly well through the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. The Tony Scott-directed film should find its way to the $80 million mark by end of its theatrical run.

Also holding its own in fourth place for the weekend was Warner’s road trip comedy Due Date. The Robert Downey Jr. flick traveled with approximately 40% less passengers in week three for a $9.1 million estimated take and a new three-week total of $72.6 million. It is on track to finish near the $90 million mark.

The weekend’s only other wide release outside of Deathly Hallows was the drama The Next Three Days which crashed and burned with a dismal $6.8 million from 2,663 screens. The film was written and directed by Paul Haggis (Crash) and stars Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, and Liam Neeson. Despite the best efforts by star Crowe to sell the film via television appearances and media interviews, viewers were completely apathetic to the film’s arrival. The nation’s critics weren’t enamored with the film either, giving the Lionsgate release a weak 44% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Paramount’s workplace comedy Morning Glory landed in sixth place and failed to build upon its weak opening. The film lost 43% of its debut weekend audience to collect a meager $5.2 million for a new twelve-day total just under $20 million. With a holiday assist, the film might be able to make it to the $30 million mark before it leaves theaters. In seventh place while suffering a disastrous 71% decline was Universal’s cheapie sci-fi dud Skyline which amassed approximately $3.4 million for a dismal ten-day total of $17.6 million. It might make it past the $20 million mark which is actually higher than the reported production budget.

Summit Entertainment’s surprise action hit Red is finally showing signs of slowing down as the movie lost half of its audience from the previous weekend to collect $2.4 million. Its six-week total now stands at the $83.6 million mark. While the film will not hit the coveted $100 million mark domestically, it may reach $90 million by the end of its run.

Ninth place went to Tyler Perry’s fast-fading For Colored Girls. It lost another 63% of its business in its third weekend to gross an estimated $2.4 million to bring its overall total to $34.5 million. The Lionsgate drama is looking to finish its run near the $40 million mark. Rounding out the top ten while continuing its release expansion is Summit’s Fair Game which saw its weekend business rise by 44% to earn a fair $1.4 million on 386 screens for a new three-week total of $3.7 million.

This upcoming Wednesday sees the launch of a quartet of new features for movie fans to dine on during the Thanksgiving weekend. Disney releases its latest animated and supposedly last princess feature for awhile, Tangled, while CBS Pictures (remember them?) debuts the action thriller Faster with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson graduating to R-rated fare. Screen Gems offers up the Christine Aguilera and Cher musical Burlesque and Fox offers up Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal in the latest feature from Edward Zwick, Love and Other Drugs.

– Shawn Fitzgerald

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